Riverford Wicked Leeks

cold caulis + a lesson in mushrooms

Thanks to its mild climate, the west of the country is normally the best place to grow cauliflowers and winter brassicas. But this year I managed to talk one of our local growers in Hampshire into trialling his first crop. Until a week ago all was looking good. As I write, his cauli is fighting for its life as unusually cold temperatures hit the country. We have not felt the full force (unlike Riverford on Home Farm in the north east) but it is still a shock to the system and the field temperature dropped to -8°C. If the plants were small and destined for harvest in March this would not have been a problem, but they are almost ready and the frost will damage the curd, reducing the shelf life to a couple of days. This element of growing can be so frustrating, as you really have done everything you can. Our leeks are also frozen in the ground! 

Last week, I had my first visit to a mushroom farm. We have worked with The Organic Mushroom Company for more than five years now and met up with them on numerous occasions, but it was great to finally see the growing sheds and better understand the process. It begins with producing compost from organic wheat straw, then introducing mycelium (a mould used to grow mushrooms) on rye seed. The crop is then topped with a moist peat mixture. This is all done in a wooden box about 1.5m sq and 40cm high. The boxes are then stacked five or six high in atmosphere-controlled rooms; the humidity is increased by watering the crop and controlling the temperature. The high humidity and temperature is held for about seven days until the mycelium has covered the compost. Next, they introduce fresh air to ‘shock’ the mushrooms into producing pins, which takes another week. The crop is ready to harvest five days later. The wooden box is normally harvested three times, then the compost is emptied out and sold on to gardeners and farmers.

James MacGregor, General Manager

deliveries between christmas and new year
We’re taking a break with no deliveries between Christmas and New Year, so stock up on all you need in Christmas week (veg-wise, you’ll get best value by going up a box size).